Alberta MPs issue Buffalo Declaration to call on Ottawa to address western alienation

Four Conservative MPs have published an online manifesto decrying what they call the unfair treatment of Alberta within Confederation and a lack of acknowledgement in Canada that the province is a “culturally distinct region.”

On Thursday afternoon, Calgary-Nose Hill MP Michelle Rempel Garner tweeted a link to the Buffalo Declaration, a name that pays homage to a former premier of the Northwest Territories’ vision for a province called Buffalo, which would encompass a large territory including an area that is now Alberta and Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Canadians divided on whether the West has legitimate beef with feds: Ipsos

“Alberta is not, and never has been, an equal partner in Confederation,” her Tweet reads. “The people of my province are suffering and need real, structural change.

“A line in the sand must be drawn. Here it is.”

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The proclamation is signed by Rempel Garner as well as three of her fellow caucus members: Banff-Airdrie MP Blake Richards, Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner MP Glen Motz and Peace River-Westlock MP Arnold Viersen.

“Canada is in crisis,” the document begins with.

“Our federation has reached a crossroads at which Canada must decide to move forward in equality and respect, or people in our region will look at independence from Confederation as the solution,” the 13-page document reads in part.

“We believe a Canada united in equity is in the best interests of its inhabitants. However, that is not the current state of Canadian federation.

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“No longer can the fate of our people be determined by a class of politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, academics, journalists, or business leaders who have no real connection to, or understanding of, our land or our culture.”

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11:17How is Alberta viewed outside the province? Looking at Western alienation from different angles

How is Alberta viewed outside the province? Looking at Western alienation from different angles

The declaration’s introduction also notes that the MPs believe “defeating the incumbent Liberal government, or building a pipeline, will not permanently address the systemic inequities Albertans face,” and suggests committing to “permanent nation-building structural change within its institutions of power” as a way forward.

“Immediate action must be taken because we are hearing from many people in our province that they will be equal or they will seek independence,” the MPs write.

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The declaration then delves into a history of the province, suggesting the creation of the province itself and argues Alberta (and Saskatchewan) were not given the same level of jurisdiction over public lands and resources as other provinces when they were created.

“The Eastern political and business class never intended for Alberta to be equal in Confederation,” the declaration reads.

“They intended for us to be a colony, providing wealth and raw resources without having an equal share in prosperity and power.”

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“At time of writing, activists with a colonial ideology are breaking laws in blockades of critical industry, for the sake of closing down Alberta industry,” the document reads.

“That they do this while purporting to be protecting First Nations from resource development is a stark example of their arrogance, and how divorced they are from the realities of those who are affected by the projects they oppose.

“For instance, the Teck Frontier mine has the approval of the local 14 First Nations in the region, all of whom are set to gain significant economic benefits from the project.”

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The declaration also highlights characteristics the MPs believe make Alberta unique from other parts of Canada, including “a desire for individual freedom, a willingness and drive to achieve personal economic liberty, a deep connection and respect for our land and an economy unique to other areas of Canada.”

The declaration laments what the MPs say is the under-representation of Alberta in Ottawa and argues the province “contributes a disproportionate amount of wealth to Ottawa relative to what is returned.”

The MPs write that they support Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s efforts to address western alienation through his Fair Deal panel, which is exploring ideas like creating a provincial police force and withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan.

READ MORE: Kenney says proposal to pull Alberta out of CPP due to hostility from others

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The declaration argues that the “status quo of the equalization program is fuelling western alienation.” The equalization formula was last adjusted in 2009 by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Other suggestions made in the declaration include possibly allowing Alberta to collect its own taxes, as well as federal taxes, and then “remit the federal share to Ottawa.”

The MPs also suggest the federal government approve the Teck Resources’ proposed Frontier oilsands mine, create a national energy corridor, “repeal legislation punitive to our energy industry and its workers.”

READ MORE: In letter to Trudeau, Kenney says rejection of Teck Frontier project could be ‘boiling point’ for western alienation

Political commentator weighs in on Buffalo Declaration

Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, said she believes the manifesto may have more impact had it narrowed its focus somewhat.

Williams suggested she wasn’t sure if the declaration’s argument that Alberta is a distinct culture would be supported or acted on and “might detract from that central message, which is… the Alberta economy, the energy industry.”

“It seems like it’s feeding or responding to separate sentiments, which may or may not even be in line with the goals of the provincial [UCP] government… [or] with the goals of any national leader which has to try to balance demands from across the country.” she said.

“It’s the more exorbitant demands that I think are particularly puzzling here, because it’s hard to see how a federal Conservative leader could both lead the country and accede to some of these demands.”

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READ MORE: Western alienation is very real in Alberta and Saskatchewan

“Some of these things I think a lot of Albertans would support [but] some of them, particularly the notion that maybe separatism might be involved… may not have much of an audience here.”

A spokesperson for Premier Jason Kenney’s office told Global News he will likely address the Buffalo Declaration at a media availability on Friday.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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